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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

MALAYSIA: Planning the Dream Holiday

Some people win lotteries. I won a trip to Malaysia through the B.C. Travel Writer's Assoc. Six days, all expenses paid, first class. As everything except the air-fare is paid for two, I've invited my girlfriend to go along with me (because my sister couldn't go). We've decided on early March for a departure and we've also decided to extend our stay by four days, mainly on the island of Langkawi.

The first three days will be spent in the high-tech modern city of Kuala Lumpur. I've been doing a bit of research to psyche myself up and give a bit of insight into what we're likely to see/do while there. "Kuala Lumpur" means "a muddy confluence" and had its origins as a shanty miny outpost for tin trade in the 1800's. It's located in the state of Selangor at the convergence of two rivers. It has been the federal capital since 1974 and is a bustling metropolis, centre of commerce, politics, entertainment and international activities. You can visit the site of the original settlement where the British flag was finally lowered on Aug. 31, 1957 and replaced by the Malaysian flag.

The modern city boasts the magnificent Petronans Twin Towers, 452 m. as well as the Menara Kuala Lumpa, the world's fourth tallest building.

In spite of the ultra modern buildings, KL still retains old word charm, and buildings of the colonia ear still stand among the new. There's lots of museums and excellent shopping areas (prices are very low here in Malaysia) as well as night life and theatre events.

I'm looking forward to sampling the tastey cuisine which includes a tempting variety of local and foreign dishes. KL was once an oil palm plantationn so there's plenty of greenery, parks and botanical gardens to visit too.

Farther north, in the state of Kedah, known as the 'rice bowl of Malaysia' there are a number of interesting points of interests but our main destination will be the islands group of Langkawi, a group of 99 islands in the NW near Thailand. It's a freeport with lots of bargains for shoppers! There's a number of interesting points of interest here including a crocodile farm, hot springs and the idyllic beautiful beaches.

The Island of Langkawi is steeped in legend and there are fascinating places to visit, organized boat trips and many museums incluidng an Underwater World aquarium where you can view more than 5,000 kinds of marine life.

Kedah was once the cradle of an ancient civilisation. Recorded history shows that in the 5th c. AD traders plied the E-W trade routes stopping at the port of Kuala Muda. There are ruins of ancient temples where a Hindu-Buddist civilsation once existed.

Malaysia is a cultural melting-pot, multicultural/multi racial country made up of local Malay, native groups, immigrants from China, India, Indoensia and other parts of the world. In Colonial times it was occupied by Portugese, Dutch and British settlers.

The main religion is Islam but other religions are practiced freely.

My friend and I are excited about this trip. In particular, I am thrilled about the opportunity to spend time on a tropical island. So for the next few months look for more updates about this journey.